Comatch breaks through 200 consultants barrier in the Nordics

28 August 2017 6 min. read
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In the first quarter of last year, digital consulting marketplace Comatch expanded its wings into the Nordic consulting market, following earlier expansion from its home-base in Germany to neighbouring the Netherlands. 18 months down the line, spoke with Toby Nielsen, who leads the firm’s Scandinavian operations, about how things are running, the main successes booked so far and on the ambitions. 

When you launched in Scandinavia, you were optimistic about the opportunities, highlighting among others the healthy consulting market and the fact that Nordics are “highly drawn to online innovations”. Reflecting on the past 1.5 years, how are things going?

First, we are still very optimistic. For the Nordics, COMATCH and its service was a new business model that clients and consultants had to take on. So we were on site, built up trust and close business relationships. Building the pool was the first step as it is our supply side. It involved a lot of direct searching and networking. We needed a lot of PR to hit it off, but it had a good impact in the end. With the media writing about us we received attention and numerous new applications. Now we are happy to have more than 200 high class Nordic independents in our network.

As I said, networking at events was important too. Our CEO, Christoph Hardt, was invited to give a presentation to Dansk Industri members, we sponsored some events at the German Danish Chamber of Commerce and attended a conference organised by Børsen. Today we see that clients find it attractive to find ICs in a quick and structured way which guarantees quality. The ICs are happy to have found support for project acquisition and being part of bigger international network. Within 2017 we will host the first Get together for our Nordic consultants in Copenhagen.

While the British typically view the Nordics as one economic region, insiders tell us there are significant differences between individual markets. Could you tell us a bit more about how Comatch is developing across Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, and how you are overcoming barriers such as language and culture?

Indeed, I am surprised how often people from outside the Nordics see it as a single entity and, for example, expect that I as Dane am able to communicate with all Scandinavians fluently, without speaking English. In all four countries establishing a relationship matters, but how to build it is slightly different. Socialising plays a bigger role in the Swedish business communication than in Finland where people are very straightforward and direct, for example. However apart from these smaller things there are no bigger cultural barriers, the consultants from the Nordic nations know the different countries and working styles as there is a high exchange between them. It’s the same on the client’s side: the big companies try to be present in all countries. What we see with our Nordic clients though is a slight preference for local consultants. Of course expertise always comes first, but if they have to choose between two equally qualified consultants they often pick the Nordic one. 

We now have more than 200 top tier independent consultants in our Nordic network

Comatch focuses on the higher echelon of consultants – those with a background at the top tier consultancies such as the strategy firms and the Big Four. Analysts however highlight that for such strategic roles clients remain sceptical of hiring them through an online player and traditionally prefer the safe haven of an established big brand. When advocating Comatch, what do you say to critics? And do you consider to be Comatch’s largest success story in the region?

When that happens I emphasise the quality standard of COMATCH: We have a strict process to choose which consultants we accept, a CV review and an extended personal interview. Our consultants have worked for at least 2 years at those top tiers and well reputed houses, or they were in a specific industry for at least ten years. We are totally aware that we can only succeed in the market as long as we keep our standards high. And I also offer the company to simply try it out, risk free and to see what kind of consultant we would suggest. We have a growing number of returning clients, on average each client staffed 3 projects via COMATCH and they evaluate our services with 9.1 out of 10 points. Our word counts, and our service mentality is high. The biggest success for me is that we have clients from Denmark to Norway and on all levels, from start-ups that want to expand internationally to consultancies that need support and the biggest companies at OMX.

Internationally Comatch operates in 5 markets now (DACH, Benelux, Nordics, France, Middle East), how do the dynamics at both the client side as well as the consultant side in the Nordics differ from other regions?

In the bigger picture there are no differences: consultants want to work internationally, they are willing to travel and 93% of them speak English fluently. For the companies it’s the same, they are acting internationally. We see that in France or Germany the native language is extremely important though. Nordic consultants struggle to get a project in those regions if they lack the language skills, while a German consultant with good English skills might easily succeed at winning a project in the Nordics. 

Building on a large funding round, Comatch have announced bold targets for the coming years. What have you set your sights on for the Nordics?

We want to grow while maintaining the high quality standards. COMATCH’s overall goal is to be Europe’s biggest and most successful marketplace for independent consultants so of course we aim to be the number one in the Nordic markets as well, the first choice when clients need a consultant. Therefore we want to attract more consultants for our database without adapting our demands. We estimate that there are 300 to 350 consultants of our profile in the whole Nordic area, so there is still space. As I said earlier, the business model is young compared to UK, France and Germany and working with ICs in general is less usual. We will change that. 

Related: Two milestones for Comatch: 2.000 consultants and 300 projects.